Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Keeping the Feast

Recognizing Jesus in the Breaking of Bread

For all the benefits of pondering the Passion of Christ, especially during Passiontide, that in itself can never be considered apart from the knowledge His resurrection. Even though it is salutary to let the Passions stand alone, whether as traditionally read during Holy Week, or as performed by choirs for meditative reflection outside the worship setting, or even as observed in a Passion Play, it is equally as salutary to ponder and muse on the resurrection of our Lord. Much has been said and written about the inclination seen especially among Protestants to give short shrift to the Passion. Their empty crosses are indicative of this tendency, and Lenten emphases are for many the exception rather than the rule. On the other hand, a heavy seasonal dose of Christ’s suffering is traditionally followed by a similarly heavy seasonal dose of His resurrection. Lent is forty days plus six Sundays; Eastertide is 49 days including Sundays. Not only so, each of the Gospels dedicates at least a chapter to Christ’s resurrection appearances (St. John gives us two).
Thus it is helpful to see how this emphasis came to be embedded in the liturgy. The Emmaus Road narrative of St. Luke 24 is informative. The basis of His catechesis on the road is, according to the evangelist, “Moses and all the prophets,” but the basis of His sermon at Jerusalem, where the eleven are “gathered together” is, according to His own words, “in . . . Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms.” The addition of the psalms suggests that the setting is now liturgical. Most importantly and significantly, Jesus is now recognized whereas before, He was not yet recognized. In the meantime He had made Himself known “in breaking of bread,” whereupon the Emmaus disciples arose immediately to join the others in Jerusalem. Now Christ appears to them all, proves by eating that it is truly He, and begins to preach. In addition, He makes it clear to these His apostles that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” (27 to 48 passim).
The implications of this progression of events speak volumes for liturgical worship. The Christian liturgy, with its heart in the Psalter, sprang to life as soon as the risen Lord was recognized. At the very moment of the breaking of bread, “they knew him,” and from that very evening, as soon as the Lord appeared again, He reintroduced the Psalter into the resurrected life of the Church. Hope was lost, now hope is renewed; faith had vanished, now faith is reborn, and all this, because of the incontrovertible evidence before the disciples’ eyes that Christ had truly risen from the grave. The Supper which He instituted just three days prior is now celebrated anew by His own direct leading of it as Celebrant. Indeed this renewal He had Himself predicted: “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom” (similarly in St. Mark 14:25 and St. Luke 22:18). So also, the Psalter, last sung in the upper room (referenced in St. Matthew 26:30 where the disciples after the Supper had “sung a hymn,” most likely a reference to all or part of the Hallel, which are the Passover Psalms, 115-118), and last heard on the lips of the dying Lord, now is sung anew by a joyful community of the faithful who are gathered together to eat. Their sorrowing fast was broken when Christ Himself fed them bread. It is in the Acts of the Apostles, also written by St. Luke, the term “breaking of bread” was more evidently used for the Sacrament of the Altar, and the term became a primitive term for the Sacrament. The first use of the term is at Emmaus, however. Taken together with the ensuing references it becomes clear that according to the evangelist this too was a reference to the Supper. And so it was that it was the resurrected Lord Himself, on Easter Day, who set the continuation of the Supper He had instituted in motion.
This same liturgical celebration of renewed life, which Christ instituted on Maundy Thursday, and to which He gave second birth in Emmaus, becomes evident in the present day in the Church in the continued celebration of the Supper. The intention of Christ that this be thus continued is indicated by His command that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.” The joy of Easter commenced when the resurrected Christ fed His Church in the context of the reborn liturgy of the Psalter. His expressed intention is that it thus continue until His return in glory.


Rev. John Frahm said...

Fr. Eckardt.

I appreciate your discussion of the breaking of the bread. A little tangential to this I wanted to mention something which was a small victory at our Minnesota North District Convention - resolution passed by voice vote that is a step in the right direction for eucharistic practice:

Rev. JOhn Frahm


Floor Committee Resolution 4-9
Unprinted Overture 4-010

WHEREAS, all teaching on the holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper must be in agreement with Scripture and especially the Lord’s Words of Institution; and

WHEREAS, we need to clearly confess the real presence and proper use of the Sacrament amid non-Lutheran contexts in our culture (Formula of Concord – Solid Declaration, Article X); and

WHEREAS, the Lutheran Church in this country has been subjected to many influences from non-Lutheran protestant sources and this has impacted Eucharistic practices; and

WHEREAS, it is not our personal faith which causes the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Holy Supper; and

WHEREAS, Martin Luther wrote in his second letter to Pastor Simon Wolferinus, which is referred to in Formula of Concord-Solid Declaration, Article VII, 87, “Therefore we shall define the time or the sacramental action in this way: that it starts with the beginning of the Our Father and lasts until all have communicated, have emptied the chalice, have consumed the Hosts, until the people have been dismissed and [the pastor] has left the altar. In this way we shall be safe and free from the scruples and scandals of such endless questions. Dr. Philip defines the sacramental action in relation to what is outside it, that is, against reservation of an procession with the Sacrament; he does not split it up within [the action] itself, nor does he define it in such a way that it contradicts itself. Therefore see to it that if anything is left over of the Sacrament, either some communicants or the priest himself and his assistant receive it, so that it is not only a curate or someone else who drinks what is left over in the chalice, but that he gives it to the others who were also participants in the Body [of Christ], so that you do not appear to divide the Sacrament by a bad example or treat the sacramental action irreverently. This is my opinion, and I know that it is also Philip’s opinion,” [WA BR 10:348, 27-349 (Oratio Dominica)]; and

WHEREAS, Dr. C.F.W. Walther, in his Pastoral Theology, writes: “Should anything of the consecrated elements be left over, the wine is to be drunk up – maybe in the sacristy—by the communicants at that particular celebration, by the lay officers, or by the sacristan. Under no circumstances, however, is consecrated to be mixed with unconsecrated wine or in any way to be put to common use. Such wine can be used if need be for sick Communions, even though in this case it is to be reconsecrated [Amerkanisch-Lutherische Pastoraltheologie, 5th ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1906), p.189 – trans. John R. Stephenson]., and

WHEREAS, despite human reason or emotion, the Scriptures give no word as to an “ending” of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood; and

WHEREAS, the Altar Guild Manual, by Lee A. Maxwell, published by Concordia Publishing House in conjunction with the Commission on Worship of the LCMS, instructs the separation of consecrated from unconsecrated and the preference of consuming what remains; and

WHEREAS, according to Scripture, it is not right to treat as common that which has been declared holy by the Word of God; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Minnesota North District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in convention encourage its pastors and congregations to keep the consecrated remains of bread and wine separate, on the altar and in the sacristy, from what has not been consecrated and train altar guilds and sacristans accordingly; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Minnesota North District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in convention encourage its pastors and congregations to preferably estimate accurately the typical amount of bread and wine needed for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper each week and to preferably have confirmed congregational communicants reverently consume what remains; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that the Minnesota North District submit this overture to the next convention of Synod to adopt the same recommendations.

ACTION - CARRIED (by voice vote)

2006 Convention of the Minnesota North District of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Father Eckardt said...

Nice resolution, maybe we can do something like it in CID. One thing I notice, however, is that CFW Walther speaks of "reconsecrating" what is reserved for shutins. Against this I would offer Acts 10: What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.